Local paralympic sports club links UD to Wounded Warrior
10:40 a.m., March 24, 2014--The average height of the players on the University of Delaware varsity women’s volleyball team is a little more than 5-feet 10-inches, but during a recent practice, their height didn’t help them much in serving, setting, or spiking.
They were playing sitting down.
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With the net set at just over 3-1/2 feet, the women were practicing with Wounded Warrior Nick Dadgostar, who hopes to compete at the 2014 Warrior Games in Colorado Springs in September. First, he must qualify at the trials in Las Vegas on April 7.
Dadgostar, who lives in Felton, Del., and was formerly stationed at Dover Air Force Base, was connected to the UD volleyball team by Yes U Can USA, a local organization that was recently designated a Paralympic Sport Club.
When UD head coach Bonnie Kenny got the request to help him prepare for the trials, she didn’t hesitate to say yes.
“It’s the least I can do to give up three hours of my week so he can fulfill a dream,” she said.
But Kenny has done far more than just coach Dadgostar for a few hours a week.
She first watched sit-volleyball when she was on a recruiting trip in Denver, and she took advantage of the opportunity to not only observe but also videotape the action so she would have a better idea of how she could coach Dadgostar.
In addition, she has done Internet research and uses feedback from the athlete himself to help figure out strategies for improving his play. For example, Dadgostar, whose right leg is amputated below the knee, has to deal with balance issues in addition to learning volleyball techniques and tactics.
After an hour of on-court play with the team, Dadgostar geared up for individual training by Kenny and her staff, including associate head coach Cindy Gregory, assistant coach Craig Boller, and director of operations Dana Griskowitz.
Kenny positioned Dadgostar on the court and coached him in serving, blocking, and other plays.
“Reach, reach, REACH,” she said. “Hit it, don’t let it drop, stay behind it.”
“Yes!” she yelled with a wide smile when he succeeded.
At the end of the second hour, Dadgostar was sweating.
“You tired?” Kenny asked.
“Yeah,” he said.
Dadgostar grabbed a bottle of water, strapped his prosthesis back on, and helped the coaches reset the net and restore order to the gym.
He was tired, but it was a good kind of tired.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but that challenges me,” he said. “I want to learn as much as I can here. I really want to make the team.”
Dadgostar is not the only one who has benefited from the experience. The players have been both inspired and humbled in playing with the Wounded Warrior.
“This is a lot more challenging than I thought it would be,” said Chandler Bryant. “I’m impressed with how good Nick is, considering that he’s only been playing for a short time.”
Ariel Shonk found it inspiring to see that Dadgostar hasn’t let his injury hold him back. “He’s a true athlete,” she said. “We’re learning as much from him as he is from us. It’s the same setting and movements we’re used to, but the techniques are different. It made me feel uncoordinated and a lot less athletic than I’m used to feeling.”
The players would welcome the opportunity to help train other Wounded Warriors in the future. “We were all just talking in the locker room about how we hope this is something we can do again next year,” said Jillian Meyers.
For Vickie George, co-founder and CEO of Yes U Can USA, the collaboration exemplifies how the organization’s connection to the University of Delaware and its designation as a Paralympic Sport Club is helping a Wounded Warrior get involved with competitive sports.
“It’s a great example of how partnering and utilizing community resources can assist someone like Nick,” she said.
About Yes U Can
The Yes U Can Corporation (Yes U Can USA) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to increase inclusion, awareness and access to health, recreation and physical fitness opportunities for people with limited mobility and disabilities.
The organization provides a series of staff-assisted group and individual exercise and weight-training programs, along with sports and outdoor activities geared toward that population. Yes U Can breaks the disability barrier and provides hands-on or standby assistance so that most ability levels can participate.
The organization was co-founded by Vickie George, who serves as president, and Deborah Woolwine, who is the vice president.
Article by Diane Kukich
Photos by Evan Krape